Written by: Joseph Yun
Sunday will feature a battle of the latest two AFC undefeated teams in league history. The men from the City of Steel and Three Rivers take a visit to the land of honky-tonks and oh, a pretty decent football team. What will happen when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? Can the Titans successfully defend Nissan Stadium against the formidable Steelers? This game will have nearly the entire country watching on CBS at 1 PM EDT.
This article and future weekly articles were written with the assistance of the Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia, which you can buy a PDF or hard cover copy here. The Encyclopedia has many features such as prospects, top team stars, and other countless data points to expand your knowledge of the game.
Note: all numbers courtesy of profootballreference.com
Key Numbers + Info (2020 season)
Record: 5-0 (1-0 AFC North)
Points scored: 156
Points allowed: 94
Avg. yards per rush: 4.3
Avg. yards per rush allowed: 3.3
Avg. rush yards per game: 136.8
Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 66.2
Rushing TDs: 7 for, 3 against
Avg. pass yards per game: 221.2
Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 219.0
Passing TDs: 11 for, 9 against
Pass Completion Rate: 69%
Pass Completion Rate Against: 58%
Top rusher: James Conner (75 carries for 369 yards and four touchdowns)
Top receiver:Chase Claypool (17 receptions for 335 yards and four touchdowns)
Top tackler: Mike Hilton (29 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble)
Key Additions: WR Chase Claypool (rookie), OL Kevin Dotson (rookie), TE Eric Ebron, FB Derek Watt, DL Chris Wormley, RB Anthony McFarland, Jr (rookie).
Key Losses: DT Javon Hargrove, LB Mark Barron, OL Stefan Wisniewski (injury), LB Devin Bush (injury), OL Zach Banner (injury)
The Steelers lead the all-time series 46-32-0
What Happened In The Last Game?
The Steelers and Titans have engaged in several highly contested affairs over the years but the 2017 edition was a Steelers blowout 40-17 victory with the denizens of the Steel City enjoying a vintage AB performance. Marcus Mariota was harried into four interceptions and the Titans just didn’t have the firepower to go point for point. The two teams met during the 2019 preseason which resulted in an 18-9 Steelers victory.
Keys to a Titans Victory
- Trench Warfare - The Titans enter the game in less than ideal circumstances with star left tackle Taylor Lewan on IR with a torn ACL. His direct replacement, Ty Sambrailo isn’t chopped liver but a clear and obvious downgrade from Lewan (he’s been perfectly serviceable but serviceable ain’t beating the Steelers in 2020). Beating the Texans abjectly abhorrent defense is one thing but simply competing against the almighty and domineering Steelers defense is quite another. If the Steelers were smart (and I suspect they are quite intelligent), they would target the left side to force Rodger Saffold into overcommitting his help to Sambrailo, thus exposing the interior for Tyson Alualu / Cam Heyward to solely focus on Ben Jones and Nate Davis. The Titans must be able to limit the terrifying horror that TJ Watt and Bud Dupree can project in the gaps and edges. Can the Titans offensive line punch open holes for Derrick Henry against a loaded Steelers front seven?
- Find the Replacement - Losing Bush to injury is a brutal turn of luck for Pittsburgh. He was well on his way to achieving the status of Steelers linebackers past (and present). With Bush out, the Steelers may be forced into playing more coverage instead of rushing upfield. Tennessee needs to see what’s what with his direct replacements (some combo of Robert Spillane, Ulysses Gilbert III, and Marcus Allen) since the other inside linebacker, Vince Williams has proven his worth already as a quintessential Steeler LB. I would test the Steelers’ ability to cover the short to intermediate pass game with quick strikes instead of the long drawn out stuff. Third down conversion machine, Adam Humphries will be critical to the Titans success.
Keys to a Steelers Victory
- Win the perimeter - The Steelers definitely have the secondary to make life miserable for the Titans’ skill position players. However, they will be without one key asset, nickel Mike Hilton due to injury. Hilton is their leading tackler and a chess piece for DC Keith Butler to move around. Of course, the back end is anchored by the ageless Joe Haden and indomitable Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Titans will really need their receivers to outmuscle the coverage since explosive speed out of the break isn’t their thing. Can Ryan Tannehill decipher the multiple looks that the Steelers secondary is sure to bring? Offensively, the Steelers boast one of the top skill groups this side of Kansas City and can beat you in a variety of ways. The three-headed monster of JuJu, Claypool, and Diontae Johnson (if healthy) will give Mike Vrabel nightmares. Of course, Ben Roethlisberger is back and better than ever after a long injury-riddled sojourn in 2019. The Titans’ defense is one of the worst in recent vintage, giving up third-down conversions at a monstrous clip.
- Don’t be Josh Norman - Limit Derrick Henry’s effectiveness and you can test the constraints of the Titans’ modus operandi aka the play-action passing game. Pittsburgh clearly has the horses to stop the reigning FedEx Ground Player of the Week, the question is, can they do it over four quarters?
Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia Prospect of the Week
3. RG Kevin Dotson and 8. RT Chukwuma Okorafor
- The trendy pick would’ve been the number one overall prospect in the Steelers system, Chase Claypool but he’s sufficiently known already. So the young right side of the Steelers’ offensive line gets the spotlight this week against a Titans defense looking to rebound. Both guys were unexpectedly thrust into the action due to injuries to the starters. Can they hold up against the likes of young beast Jeffery Simmons, the emerging Harold Landry, and the enigmatic Jadaveon Clowney?
What are the odds?
(all odds are courtesy of vegasinsider.com)
Caesar’s has the Titans as 1.5 point favorites at -125 while the Steelers are +105 dogs. The over/under has been set at 51 even.
DraftKings has the Titans as 1.5 point favorites at -125 while the Steelers are +105 dogs. The over/under has been set at 50.5
The WestGate Superbook the Titans as 1.5 point favorites at -125 while the Steelers are +105 dogs. The over/under has been set at 50.5.